Thank you Lady Guggenheim!

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the grand canal in Venice is definitely worth a visit if you like 20th century artwork, or you want a break from all of the fraying tapestries and ancient sculptures that are plentiful in Italian museums. Seeing thick paint and gallery wrapped canvasses instead of gargantuan, distracting frames was really refreshing. In fact, one of my favorite parts of the museum was seeing which artists kept the sides of their canvasses clean and which ones were absolutely filthy.

The museum is actually an unfinished palace, although you wouldn’t know it while passing by on a vaporetto as it’s an understated white building, only one story high. Peggy Guggenheim purchased and lived in the partial palace which now holds her personal treasury of paintings and sculptures by artist’s whose careers she is responsible for furthering.

I first heard of her when I was a Jackson Pollock fanatic in high school. She took him from an art world reject to a praised artist to collect. And she too had quite a collection of Pollock’s for herself with more than a whole room devoted to him. There was a Francis Bacon over the staircase, a beautiful Mondrian on one wall, and a Kandinsky on another. It was hard to know where to look, even in such a small environment, with artist’s we call “masters” responsible for every painting in the building. The funny thing is that the reason we call many of the artists “masters” in the art world is because Peggy Guggenheim approved of them first.

One painting I didn’t remember seeing before. but really apprecciated was Magritte’s Empire of Light. It beautifully takes an everyday moment and makes it surreal, with the viewer unable to place the painted house in any particular time. Night and day are captured at once, and yet the painting still feels cohesive and oddly familiar. If I could have made it out of the museum alive I would have taken that painting out with me.

Since there was only time for one museum in Venice, I’m overjoyed that the slot went to the Guggenheim. On my next trip through town I will have to see the great Italian artwork that I missed in other exhibits, and the Biennale of contemporary art currently on display, but, once again, being surrounded by artwork that I find overwhelmingly inspirational, I had to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.